Traditional vs. Contemporary Design Styles

Take a look around your home. How would you define your decorating style? Industrial? Minimalist? Transitional? It can often be confusing to put a name to your style – especially since there are so many styles out there. Many people find they decorate with a mixture of styles.

Two of the more popular styles that you may encounter when decorating your apartment are traditional and contemporary. And, while you may know which style you prefer, if you’re unsure, here’s a look at both of these decorating styles and what you can expect from each of them.

  • Contemporary Design: If you talk with interior designers, they will tell you that contemporary design is often confused or interchanged with modern design, but that they are different styles. 
    • Contemporary design is meant to represent the trends that are currently happening. Things you will see in contemporary design are:
      • Clean lines
      • Minimal clutter
      • “Less is more”
      • Neutral colors paired with an accent color
      • Open space
      • Natural light
      • Geometric shapes 
  • When it comes to picking out furnishings and decorations for your apartment that fit with the ideas of contemporary design, here are some things to look for:
  • Colors: Whether it be for your furniture, walls, or artwork, look for neutral colors. White, tan, beige, gray, brown, and cream are all very popular. If you want to bring in a brighter color, it is most often done as an accent. 
  • Furniture: If you’re purchasing furniture with a contemporary vibe, look for smooth lines and light-colored woods. You might also see glass, stainless steel, chrome, or nickel in contemporary furnishings. If looking at fabric pieces, go for neutral colors and natural fabrics.
  • Artwork: To keep with the contemporary design principles, you will need to subscribe to the “less is more” philosophy. Look to buy geometric pieces or use artwork to bring in your accent color. 
  • Traditional Design: If comfort and coziness are what you desire in a home, then traditional design may be one of your preferences. With traditional design style, there are two paths you can take – classic traditional and new traditional. 
    • Classic traditional design will have things like dark woods, heavy curtains or drapes, moldings, and woodwork with lots of details. New traditional design may also have dark woods, but focuses more on comfort. 
    • Furnishings and decorations will often have a distinct style. You will see tables and chairs that have ornate woodwork and legs that match. Decorations will include paintings and sculptures.
  • Colors: As with contemporary design, you will see neutral colors like cream, beige, and tan, but accent colors may include red, blue or olive green. 
  • Furniture: There are several furniture styles that are classified as traditional, such as Chippendale, Queen Anne, and Sheraton. Upholstered furniture is very popular with traditional design – often in stripes or florals.
  • Artwork: Paintings, in particular, still-life, are part of decorating in the traditional style. Chandeliers, candelabras, and large vases filled with flowers may also be used. 

Where does your style preference lie? Are you more traditional or contemporary? Or, are you just a mix of what you love?

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